On Monday, Jan. 13, the state legislature convened for day one of the 2014 session.
As always occurs the first week of the session, Georgia’s representatives, senators, state constitutional officers and members of the Georgia Court of Appeals and Georgia Supreme Court gathered in the House Chamber to hear Governor Deal deliver the State of the State Address.
Gov. Deal delivered a very positive and forward-looking speech and took the opportunity to underline many of the positive things happening right now in our state.
He pointed out that Georgia has added 217,000 new private sector jobs since he took office three years ago, the state unemployment rate is the lowest it has been in five years, Site Selection magazine recently declared Georgia the No. 1 state in the nation in which to do business, Georgia’s state tax burden is the lowest per-capita in the country and Georgia continues to be one of the few states in the country with a AAA bond rating.
We have much work to do, but Georgia is moving in a very positive direction.
This annual speech also marks the official beginning of the legislative budget process, as this is when the governor first releases his proposed budget for the year. The General Assembly’s one constitutionally mandated duty is to pass a balanced budget each year, and the budget process dominates a majority of the body’s time each year, as it should.
We have 40 days to review budget priorities, ask tough questions of the agencies that will spend the dollars we appropriate and do our level best to make certain Georgian’s hard-earned tax dollars are being spent in an efficient and responsible manner.
Gov. Deal focused much of the attention of his budget-related remarks in his speech on education funding in Georgia. Well over half our state’s budget is spent on education, and Gov. Deal is proposing a significant increase in K-12 education funding in his Fiscal Year 2015 budget proposal.
He has proposed dedicating almost 82 percent of FY 15 new revenue receipts to education, with 68 percent of new revenue going to K-12 education. His budget proposal amounts to an increase in K-12 education funding of $547 million, the largest single year increase in K-12 funding in seven years.
As a member of the Appropriations Committee, I look forward to carefully reviewing Gov. Deal’s budget proposal in the context of our budget hearings as we seek to responsibly appropriate Georgia’s tax revenues.
The volume of legislation on the floor of the House was light during first week of the season; however, the Senate and House did take up an important elections-related bill in response to a federal court ruling.
The judge in that case held that Georgia’s election schedule was not providing an adequate amount of time for military personnel to return absentee ballots. Although the ruling only impacted federal elections, to prevent unnecessary election expenses to Georgia’s taxpayers through the imposition of multiple election dates, the measure is intended to align local, state and judiciary elections to coincide with the new requirements for federal election dates.
H.B. 310 adjusts qualification dates for federal and state elections beginning in 2014 to ensure our elections comport with this court ruling. The bill specifically addresses the military ballot issue by providing that runoffs from federal elections shall occur 9 weeks following the date of the unresolved election.
This year is my seventh year in the legislature and I never take for granted what an awesome and incredible honor and responsibility it is to represent our great community in the Georgia General Assembly. As always, I hope to hear from the citizens of this community often in the weeks ahead. I am always available to answer questions and welcome and appreciate input from constituents on issues of importance to our district and the state of Georgia.
State Representative, District 72
[Rep. Matt Ramsey (R-Peachtree City) was first elected to the District 72 post in December 2007. He is a law partner with Warner, Hooper, and Ramsey, P.C., in Peachtree City. His email is email@example.com.]